'Tis the season to be ANGRY

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

News of a bloody brawl at a school nativity play comes as no surprise to John Walsh. It's all part of the new Christmas spirit, he explains: pushy, stressed out and red in tooth and claw

The finger-biting detail is certainly bizarre (didn't you love The Sun's suggestion of a carol to accompany it: "No Thumb, All Ye Faithful"?) but frankly, it's surprising that fights don't break out more often at school Nativity plays. They're not occasions of innocent celebration and childish joy: they're a war zone of suppressed emotion.

Picture the scene. In the primary school hall, the walls have been daubed with crayoned shepherds, swarthy kings and guiding stars. Backstage, the harassed Reception-class teachers try to marshal 20 tinies dressed as tree baubles, tinsel fairies and cuddly teddies into some order, while the main dramatis personae of Holy Family, Innkeeper, Herod and local agriculturals are fighting first-night nerves.

In the auditorium the atmosphere is even tighter. Parent Z arrived at the Hall with his trusty camcorder, in good time to nail a prime position from which to catch Xerxes and Beyoncé being simply brilliant, but he was distracted in the lobby by mince pies and mulled wine with Mrs Robinson (Sums) and was too late to find a prime seat. Parent Q in Row C regards him with pity, and readies his iPhone 4S with early-adopter superiority.

Parents A and B cannot believe that Mrs Bradshaw (Drama) has chosen that skinny bitch Fern to play the Virgin Mary rather than their talented Alaska – but of course Fern's mother inherited a few mill from her late MP father last summer, and is obviously to be cultivated.

Parents D and E are fretting that their seasonal gifts to the teachers are sub-standard. Once a pannetone from Carluccio's was sufficient, but later nothing less than a Daylesford hamper would ensure that young Barney and Squish didn't fall behind in design technology. Last year the couple dished out scented candles (oleander) from Diptyque (£20 a pop!) to the teachers, but Parents G and H trumped them with tiny coral bijoux from Links. What this year? A Thomas Sabo watch?

It's bad enough negotiating the heavy fire of eyes at the school gates when doing the 3.30pm pick-up. It's bad enough with all the extra seasonal competitiveness beyond those gates (shopping, decoration, treats) – as highlighted on these pages. But put all the parents in a single room just before Christmas, with their competitive instincts in full display and fumes of mutual loathing filling the air, factor in the shocking crush Parent L has long nursed for the wife of Parent M, wind them all up with nerves about their children's imminent performances and it's not long before nerves begin to twang.

And suddenly you're Away in a Bloody Salle-à-Manger...

Stage rage

Gold, finger-stumps and myrrh... The school nativity play has always been a mine field for parental tensions. Hell hath no fury like a mother whose little princess auditioned for Mary and was cast as Shepherd No 3.

However, the behaviour of two dads at a Christmas performance this year represents a new low for seasonal ill-will.

While parents waited to be seated at Harton Primary, in South Shields, a fight broke out, ending with one dad allegedly biting another's finger off.

Fellow parents watched in horror as the scene unfolded, but thankfully no children witnessed it as they were backstage, presumably struggling to attach tea towels and cardboard crowns to their heads.

A 32-year-old man was hospitalised and a 39-year-old man arrested on suspicion of assault.

The play went ahead as planned. After all, the nativity must go on.

Toy rage

Christmas shopping is pretty horrific at the best of times, but this year it's really turned nasty.

First there was Black Friday in America, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally opens the Christmas shopping season. Festive feeling was in short supply as one man was shot and a Los Angeles woman pepper-sprayed fellow bargain hunters.

Then last weekend, in London, police were forced to close part of Oxford Street after fears that Christmas shoppers could create a deadly crush.

And in Australia, shopping centres have employed car park attendants for the first time this year to prevent bust-ups over that last remaining space.

Lighting rage

Christmas is the season of good will to all men. It is also the season of proving by means of your larger, brighter and in all ways superior decorations that you are better than your neighbours.

When your neighbour is a very flashy, and very wealthy, TV presenter you have to go further than most. Undeterred, Jonathan Ross neighbour Nick Robeson erected an 8ft6ins polar bear, its cub and glowing reindeer outside his Hampstead house in 2008.

Ross is the envy of north London families for his elaborate Christmas light displays, which had caught the eye of Robeson's two young sons.

That is, until their father supersized his own decorations and won back their favour. Unfortunately they asked for even more lights the following year. The lesson: competitive dads don't need encouragment.

But then neither do ambitious youngsters, a Chicago couple has discovered. Leaving the decorations to their 19-year-old son Zach Gebis resulted in a synchronised light display using tens of thousands lights which turn off and on to music.

The show has already attracted hundreds of visitors and, suprisingly, not quite so many complaints from neighbours.

Grotto rage

A Christmas outing always begins with good intentions. But such are the pressures of the season that all too often it can end with a mother verbally abusing an elf.

At the St Nicholas Fayre in York last weekend, things turned sour after queues grew for Santa's grotto, which could cope with only 40 children an hour.

Parents clutching vouchers for a discount train ride were enraged to find that they had been misled by a mistaken promotion on the website Groupon and that there was, in fact, no train at the fayre.

Broken-hearted children were reduced to tears as their parents hurled abuse at various members of Santa's grotto team.

One elf handed in his resignation, while a woman dressed as a Christmas tree was targeted for abuse – presumably because she stood out from the crowd.

Groupon expressed regret for the mix-up and organisers thought the fayre may have been confused with one in Hull that did have a train. Since when did Santa have a train anyway?

Age rage

It's the Advent calendar that's really to blame. You can't expect a child to wait 24 days for presents they know are coming, and today's children won't be fobbed off with a tiny piece of chocolate.

In 2006, a mother in Carolina turned her son in to the police on Christmas Day – for opening his Christmas presents too early. Even more worryingly, the local cops actually charged the poor child with petty larceny.

The mother reportedly called the police after her 12-year-old son tore the wrapping paper off his Nintendo Game Boy before being allowed to by the family.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing